Musician’s Musings: Paul Benson

We love to feature Musings from our Musicians, and are excited to share this month’s submission, written by Paul Benson. Paul joined the BSO in November 2018 and we are so happy to have him in the cello section. We hope you enjoy this Musing as much as we do!



HOW TO BE A CELLIST IN TWENTY EASY STEPS!

Step 1 

Start. Do not stop. — This is the most important step of all of the steps. If you can completely fulfill Step 1, you may skip Steps 2 – x

Step 2

Start learning how to play the French horn. — This is an optional step, but still important to get the best cello experience humanly possible. 

Step 3

Get good. — Practice. A lot. Probably more than you should. 

Step 4

Audition for Minnesota All-state orchestra and Minnesota All-state band at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud. Have a really good string audition and a really bad brass audition in the deadest room you have ever been in. — This is imperative to the cello experience. Make sure you have a beautiful audition where you practice the same thing over and over again, making sure to ignore the French horn audition and fully focus on the cello audition. 

Step 5

Get into the Minnesota All-state orchestra. — This will completely change the way you think about music, especially in the string world. Enjoy Prokofiev for the first time. This will get you really interested in classical repertoire! 

Step 6

Start to branch out. — Join local orchestra, the Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra. This is when you start actually thinking of majoring in music in college. 

Step 7

Apply to the University of Minnesota, planning on majoring in Music Education.

Step 8

Get accepted into the University of Minnesota, still planning on majoring in Music Education.

Step 9

Do not get accepted into the School of Music at the University of Minnesota. — This step is crucial. After this, you will want to practice your tail off for your next audition in 4 months. 

Step 10

Make sure you meet with your guidance counselor at the U. — Your counselor will ask if you have a back-up plan for if you don’t get accepted into the School of Music. Make sure you say “no.” 

Step 11

Practice very hard and get into the School of Music! — After a questionable Bach performance, you will be ready to join the SoM. Now you are able to take lessons from the great Tanya Remenikova. 

Step 12

Do not disappoint Tanya Remenikova. — This is another crucial step. You have to work super hard. 

Step 13

Audition to be in the University Symphony Orchestra. — You will probably shake very badly during your audition. That’s okay; you’re still not ready. 

Step 14

Get into one of the orchestras meant for non-music major students. — This makes you feel like you have something to prove. Continue to work very hard. 

Step 15

About 1 year later, audition for the USO again. — This time is the charm. You’ll make it in after working very hard to get to…

Step 16

Sit in the back of the cello section. — Your new goal for professional playing is to move up from, well, not the back. This will bring about an understanding in yourself – there is no shame in sitting in the back of the cello section. Every member of the section is important. But if you want to sit further up you just have to work harder. 

Step 17

Start to work on your senior recital. — Throughout this process, you have good lessons and bad lessons. There are so many times where you doubt yourself. But you’ve come way too far to stop now. You spend more time in the practice room than you ever have before. You need to get your Bach 2 and Saint-Saens Cello Concerto working. There are moments where Tanya offers an easy out – simply only do a few movements from each part. At this, you outright refuse – you do not want to budge, not even a small amount. To do this would be to give up a huge piece of what you believe in, what you’ve been striving for. This is truly the ultimate test. 

Step 18

Start to feel pretty good. Perform your senior recital wonderfully. — You have come such a long way from when you started, but your journey isn’t over yet. You do surprisingly well for your senior recital; you can’t get down on yourself for doing your absolute best. Your brain, which is normally very critical and deprecating, is quiet. You have done it! You memorized every note, you played every phrase. You feel like you’re starting to get the hang of it.  

Step 19

Next steps. — After you’ve graduated from college, there are many paths to take. The one you might end up taking is Focus On Teaching. You got your first job, but you put all of your effort into becoming a better teacher. This means the cello will take a bit of a back seat as you move forward. 

Step 20

Get right back into it. — You move back into the metro area, a place rife with opportunity to perform. You were recommended to audition for the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra. This was always in the back of your mind, until you decide to go for it. You work hard to get your audition as best as you can. When the moment comes… You’re in! 

At this moment, you will have to start making decisions on your own. Everyone’s journey to be a better musician comes in many different shapes and colors. I always tell my students that pursuing music is like climbing to the top of a mountain whose peak you will never get to see. What you end up seeing is a vast musical landscape that spreads out before you the higher you climb. You may never reach the summit of the mountain, but what you get to see is where you’ve come from and where you’re going. My hope for them – and myself – is that we all keep looking upwards. 

“I feel that I am making daily progress.” – Pablo Casals

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